SBA disaster relief for small businesses: at a glance

By now, you’ve surely heard about the CARES Act and the multitude of programs designed to help small businesses head off economic crisis as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Though new legislation and relief packages have been signed into law, the aid they provide is not instantaneous. Like anything else in life, there is a process. And because this is new ground for many businesses – and lenders (not to mention the government armature that has to be put in place to support all these changes), there can be delays and confusion.

This story is derived mainly from the Small Business Administration resource at www.sba.gov, with some insight from tile contractors and law firms. It’s a simplification of the more detailed information you can find at the website to give you an idea of what these loans are, who they are meant for, how they help, and how to access them.

The URL that will take you to the SBA comprehensive site for all option is https://www.sba.gov/funding-programs/loans/coronavirus-relief-options. From there, we give you an overview of what is offered.

Economic Injury Disaster Loan Emergency Advance

Where can I find it? https://www.sba.gov/funding-programs/loans/coronavirus-relief-options/economic-injury-disaster-loan-emergency-advance

What does it do? Provides up to $10,000 of economic relief for businesses experiencing temporary difficulties

Who’s eligible? Small business owners in all U.S. states, Washington D.C., and territories. This includes:

  • small business with fewer than 500 employees (including sole proprietorships, independent contractors and self-employed persons),
  • private non-profit organization or 501(c)(19) veterans organizations affected by COVID-19.
  • Businesses in certain industries may have more than 500 employees if they meet the SBA’s size standards for those industries. Visit https://www.sba.gov/document/support–table-size-standards for tables and tools to determine business size.
  • A cooperative with not more than 500 employees.
  • An Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP), as defined in 15 U.S.C. 632, with not more than 500 employees.
  • A tribal small business concern, as described in 15 U.S.C. 657a(b)(2)(C), with not more than 500 employees.
  • A business, including an agricultural cooperative, aquaculture enterprise, nursery, or producer cooperative, that is small under SBA Size Standards found at https://www.sba.gov/size-standards
  • A business with more than 500 employees that is small under SBA Size Standards found at https://www.sba.gov/size-standards
  • A private non-profit organization that is a non-governmental agency or entity that currently has an effective ruling letter from the IRS granting tax exemption under sections 501(c),(d), or (e) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954, or satisfactory evidence from the State that the non-revenue producing organization or entity is a non-profit one organized or doing business under State law, or a faith-based organization.
  • Be aware that this loan is capped at $1,000 per employee.

Where do I apply? https://covid19relief.sba.gov/#/

How long will it take me to fill out an application? 2 hours 10 minutes

How soon can I obtain funds? Claims are 3 days, but it is so new, very little information is available as to how long it actually takes to obtain funds.

How long do I have to apply? September 30, 2020

Is this loan forgivable? This loan advance will not need to be repaid.

Paycheck Protection Program

Where can I find it? https://www.sba.gov/funding-programs/loans/coronavirus-relief-options/paycheck-protection-program-ppp

What does it do? This SBA loan helps businesses keep their workforce employed for eight weeks during the Coronavirus crisis.

Who’s eligible:

  • Any small business with fewer  than 500 employees (including sole proprietorships, independent contractors and self-employed persons), 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations, 501(c)(19) veterans organizations, or Tribal businesses (see sec. 31(b)(2)(C) of the Small Business Act) affected by Coronavirus/COVID-19.
  • Businesses in certain industries may have more than 500 employees if they meet the SBA’s size standards for those industries.
  • Small businesses in the hospitality and food industry with more than one location could also be eligible if their individual locations employ fewer than 500 workers.

Where do I apply?

  • For best results, check with your local lender first. Any SBA 7(a) lender, or any federally-insured depository institution, federally-insured credit union, and Farm Credit System institution that is participating can service this loan. Other regulated lenders will be available to make these loans once they are approved and enrolled in the program.
  • You can start preparing the application you will submit to your lender by using the application form at https://www.sba.gov/document/sba-form–paycheck-protection-program-borrower-application-form.

How long do I have to apply? Lenders may begin processing loan applications as soon as April 3, 2020. The Paycheck Protection Program will be available through June 30, 2020, but due to finite funds, it’s best to apply as soon as possible. Independent contractors and self-employed individuals can apply starting April 10.

How soon can I obtain funds? Anywhere from 10 – 30 days.

Is this loan forgivable? SBA will fully forgive loans if all employees are kept on the payroll for eight weeks and the money is used for payroll, rent, mortgage interest, or utilities. At least 75% of the loan must be used for payroll. Loan payments will also be deferred for six months. No collateral or personal guarantees are required. Neither the government nor lenders will charge small businesses any fees.

Forgiveness is based on the employer maintaining or quickly rehiring employees and maintaining salary levels.  Forgiveness will be reduced if full-time headcount declines, or if salaries and wages decrease.

What is the maturity and interest rate of the loan? This loan has a maturity of 2 years and an interest rate of 1%.

Additional loans you may want to consider include:

 SBA Express Bridge Loan

What does it do? It enables small businesses that currently have a business relationship with an SBA Express Lender to access up to $25,000 quickly.

Why might I need it? It can help overcome temporary loss of revenue small businesses are experiencing or it can satisfy the need for urgent cash while applying for a direct SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan.

Is it forgivable? It will be repaid in full or in part by proceeds from the EIDL.

SBA Debt Relief

What is it? A financial reprieve to small businesses during the COVID-19 crisis

What does it do?

  • The SBA will automatically pay the principal, interest, and fees of current 7(a), 504, and microloans for a period of six months.
  • The SBA will also automatically pay the principal, interest, and fees of new 7(a), 504, and microloans issued prior to September 27, 2020.

Automatic payment deferment

What is it? SBA is providing automatic payment deferments through December 31, 2020 for current SBA Serviced Disaster (Home and Business) Loans if they were in regular servicing status on March 1, 2020.

How do automatic deferments benefit me? Though interest will continue to accrue on the loan, monthly payment notices will reflect the loan is deferred and no payment is due.

What about automatic debit payments on the loan? The deferment will not cancel any established Preauthorized Debit (PAD) or recurring payments on the loan.  Borrowers that have established a PAD through Pay.Gov or an OnLine Bill Pay Service must cancel these recurring payments.  Borrowers that had SBA establish a PAD through Pay.gov must contact their SBA servicing office to cancel the PAD.

What if I want to keep paying on the loan? If you wish to continue making payments during the deferment period, you may and they will be applied normally. Once the automatic deferment period ends, borrowers will need to resume their regular payment schedule, and those who cancelled recurring payments will need to reestablish them.

Where do I go for questions? Please contact your Loan Servicing Office directly using the following information:

Stay tuned for ongoing information about programs that can benefit small businesses and workers as we move through this pandemic together. And visit www.tile-assn.com for regularly updated resources to help businesses and workers affected by COVID-19.

Happy Spring TileLetter readers!

Greetings readers! By now, hopefully spring will have sprung in your town and you are enjoying warm weather, balmy breezes and blooming flowers. No matter how mild your winter, the colors and warmth of spring are always welcome.

Did you attend TISE back in January? If you didn’t (and even if you did), check out our product section that brings you news of some fresh finds on the show floor in Vegas. And NTCA – along with CTEF – was out in force at the show. See what was percolating in booths, in the conference programs and demo sessions. I don’t think there’s a tile contractor in our industry that isn’t grateful for the amazing advances in setting materials that have developed over the years. But sometimes, doing it the “old fashioned way” – namely with mud or mortar beds – is the only way to achieve your desired result. Peruse the mud story in our Technical section, authored by Martin Brookes, with help from some mud experts. And if you want to learn more about mud – or mentor others new to the medium – put Mario Garcia’s Mud4 event on your calendar for February 27, 2021; new California location to be announced. The Mud3 event that just took place at the end of February drew 300 people from 17 states and Canada to demos, classes and the opportunity for installers to meet and network. And 13 people took the Certified Tile Installer program the day before, too! Stay informed at themudevent.com  

The Mud3 Event that took place at the end of February in Fresno, Calif. 

Healthcare is on everyone’s minds these days. Writer Phillip M. Perry gives us a tour through currently available options, with some insights that might help you navigate the labyrinth of healthcare options more easily and find affordable, broad coverage that can help you sleep easier at night.

Are you an NTCA Five-Star Contractor or thinking about becoming one? In this issue, NTCA Five-Star Program Director Amber Fox provides an overview of the program, what’s on the horizon and information about upcoming re-certification. 

Bart Bettiga interviews MAPEI President and CEO Luigi Di Geso in this issue’s One-to-One section. Di Geso talks about the huge influence of Dr. Giorgio Squinzi and the direction the new leadership is taking, an overview of MAPEI markets, what’s coming up in the tile and stone installation products category, and how MAPEI supports qualified labor. 

We lost a few industry greats in recent months. TileLetter pays tribute to Jerry Zakim and Albert Thompson, sharing some remembrances of these two legendary forces in our industry. Let’s take this chance, as we remember these two industry greats, to appreciate each other and what we all bring to this industry and each other’s lives. And maybe tell each other what you appreciate about them, while you can. 

God bless,

[email protected] 

A&D professionals learn, earn CEU credits at NTCA workshops

One of the core pillars of NTCA is its focus on education and training. It has a long history of road shows (now called workshops), and in recent years has instituted training events and lunch-and-learns.

Architects from Studio8 learn about tile installation and performance during a workshop by J&R Tile in San Antonio

While these events generally target contractors and installers, periodically there are special sessions planned for the A&D community, offering coveted Continuing Education Units (CEUs) – or architects and designers may choose to attend a regularly-scheduled NTCA Workshop on a subject of interest. There is always a wealth of information for A&D professionals to be aware of – new products, techniques, substrate preparation, and properly specing and understanding gauged porcelain tile panels and slabs. Workshops also offer A&D professionals an opportunity to interact with contractors, and sponsors/suppliers of finishing and installation products.

In fact, Erin Albrecht, of NTCA Five-Star Contractor J&R Tile in San Antonio, Texas, gave a workshop on gauged porcelain tile panels/slab recently to a group of A&D professionals from Studio8 Architects in San Antonio.

Megan Moshier of Studio8 Architects said she attended this workshop because the firm does a lot of interior remodels and this is an effective material for that application. She was particularly searching for “install details, warranties for owners, and understanding liability of drawings.”

The workshop helped her understand that there are alternate uses for gauged porcelain, such as countertops. And she walked away with an ability to educate “clients in a more informed way, with different perspectives.” 

Two states over, in Gilbert Arizona, Randy Fleming conducted the NTCA Tile Matters: Best Practices for the Pros workshop, held at Monterrey Tile. 

Jackie Funkhouser, Scottsdale Interior Design Group

Invited to attend by Jeffrey Bennett of Monterrey Tile, Jackie Funkhouser, Owner and Interior Designer of Scottsdale Interior Design Group, was on hand at this workshop to “learn more about tile installation and the products, trends, and advances being made around that particular element of design.” 

She was driven by a desire to learn “more about tile installation techniques,” and discovered that there are “very specific techniques used by tile installers to make a quality installation that meets specs and standards in the industry.”

Her experience at the workshop has influenced her choice of tile installers for future projects. “From the perspective of choosing a tile installer, I will always consider the installer’s qualifications and knowledge for my clients.”

This workshop was a positive and useful experience all around. Funkhouser called Monterrey Tile “a great host,” and said she was “pleasantly surprised at the depth and breadth of knowledge imparted during this workshop.” Admitting she was “very impressed,” she’d be interested in learning about “more finishing techniques and more finishing products and options” in a future workshop. 

If you are an A&D professional and would like to attend an NTCA Workshop near you, speak to your local distributor about scheduling one, or go to the Community Calendar at www.tile-assn.com. Under the Education & Certification tab, click on FREE Educational Workshops/CEU Credits to find an already-scheduled event near you!

NTCA contractors sound off on Coronavirus and their businesses

We’ve been reading a lot about legislation being rushed through to address the Coronavirus pandemic and related economic crisis, amidst rumors of work slowdowns and layoffs. But how are our members dealing with the new normal? How are their businesses being affected, how are they keeping safe and healthy and if there is downtime, how are they using it to their best advantage?

The weekend of March 28, TileLetter.com contacted a number of NTCA member contractors to take their pulse on the state of business in the time of Corona.

Dan Welch, Welch Tile & Marble

Working status: green light

All of the NTCA contractors contacted are still working, to various degrees, with residential and construction projects deemed essential. But some areas are cutting back such as Michigan, where Dan Welch of NTCA Five-Star Contractor Welch Tile & Marble admitted that they have ceased in-state operations, except for food plants, and hospitals that are only employing a third of his team.

Chris Walker, David Allen Company

Chris Walker of NTCA Five-Star Contractor David Allen Company said that DAC was told that “as long as there are successful efforts to follow all protocols, construction is considered an essential activity — even in shelter-in-place states – and work will continue.”

For Martin Brookes, of NTCA Five-Star Contractor Heritage Marble &  Tile located in Mill Valley, Calif., right outside San Francisco, his area was one of the first hit by shelter-in-place (SIP) orders, which were vague on which industries could continue operation. Brookes swung into action.

Martin Brookes, Heritage Marble & Tile

“I immediately stocked jobs with tile and setting materials to the best of my ability,” he said. “I was able to implement an infectious disease mitigation strategy with my employees and general contractors. We started to have morning tailgate safety meetings practicing social distancing measures. The conditions we put on our GC’s was that only ourselves (limit 2 man crew) be in the workspace and have access to clean water and hand soap. They all agreed to these conditions and to date it’s worked out well.

“I also created a letter with the current SIP order referenced and check with each county and city to see if it differs from the state,” he added. “The information clearly states the order and has my information on the letter for them to contact. This will hopefully resolve any issues if law enforcement enter a job site. They are also told to have the infectious disease mitigation strategy document with them on the job site and practice good personal hygiene throughout the day.”

John Cox, Cox Tile
Gianna Vallefuoco, Vallefuoco Contractors, LLC

Though contractors are working, for many, phones have virtually stopped ringing and no new work is coming in. “People are in fear of what’s happening,” said John Cox, of NTCA Five-Star Contractor Cox Tile in San Antonio. “They are no different than us, and not spending money unless it is a necessity.”

For others, things are still percolating. “Some jobs are delayed indefinitely due to social distancing concerns by clients, especially in buildings where there are bylaws restricting work,” said Gianna Vallefuoco, of Maryland-based NTCA Five-Star Contractor Vallefuoco Contractors, LLC. “We are definitely slowing down, but some jobs are still being pushed to finish. Our trade clients, like builders and remodelers, are trying to stay busy. We are still bidding many new jobs. We’re staying positive, but realistic.”

Protecting workers

Contractors say their worker safety is top priority. Brookes added, “The most important thing is the health and safety of my employees. They are asked if they feel safe and well protected, and if they are in any doubt about their health and safety they are welcome to stay home. The talk every morning is repetitive but is important to understand how the virus is spread and how to protect against it. It is so far working, but we are in the early stages and we hope through social distancing and isolation measures that the risk will be reduced.”

John Mourelatos, Mourelatos Tile Pro

In Tucson, John Mourelatos of Mourelatos Tile Pro said, “We are only working on remodeling projects where we can isolate our work area from the main part of the house. For example, we are working in a master bathroom project and we can access the area through a master bedroom door. We don’t have to access the main part of the house at all, using a separate bathroom from the homeowners. We are wearing gloves and washing our hands and tools frequently.” 

Walker said that for DC area work, DAC is eliminating crew vans and paying for parking or gas/mileage for out-of-town crews. “Construction  by its nature, is typically in social-distancing mode,” he said. “Superintendent’s offices are essentially their trucks, so those are controlled environments.” He also said that high-touch surfaces are wiped down several times a day, limited unannounced visitors and asked delivery services to leave and pick up packages without signature.

Bradford Denny, Nichols Tile & Terrazzo

Bradford Denny, of NTCA Five-Star Contractor Nichols Tile & Terrazzo Co., Inc., in Joelton, Tenn., said “We have asked everyone to check their temperature daily and stay home at the first signs of not feeling well. To further separate ourselves from one of our clients, we created a negative air space with HEPA filtration unit in our working area and have been sanitizing areas outside of the working area we travel. After finishing for the day, we’ve encouraged employees to return home and remain as isolated as possible.”

At Vallefuoco Contractors,  installers are using gloves and masks, though they are in short supply, and disinfectant. “We are implementing a 6 foot social distance protocol. We are moving toward single man crews for many jobs, especially small jobs,” Vallefuoco said. In the office, desks are separated and workers are at their own work stations. In addition, new technology will allow office staff to address tasks remotely from home. Health is number one, and we are taking this seriously. We need to respect social distancing protocol vehemently. None of us wants to put ourselves, employees, clients, vendors, fellow tradesmen/women, nor their families at risk. We are truly in this together.”  

Dealing with layoffs

New laws designed to provide support for workers and small businesses are creating some hope, confusion and prompting a learning curve as to how to navigate the details.

“This is definitely new territory,” Vallefuoco said. “Our future financial needs and our eligibility for benefits are still unclear, and we are always looking for guidance and insight from those who understand the options. Our goal is to keep employees on payroll for as long as possible, with the hope of riding out this storm with minimal financial consequences to employees.

“As a small business, this is of course a big concern,” she added. “Our main goal is to protect employees from becoming ill. We have specifically instituted measures to keep our employees safe and well, and home if needed. Fortunately, we’re able to provide excellent health insurance. For installers who are subcontractors, we are doing our best to keep them as busy as they desire. By implementing one man crews, we hope to keep people working safely, while respecting social distancing measures.”

Welch said, “The new law that requires people to be laid off and gives them a bonus to be laid off is creating issues. Some workers don’t want to work because they would rather be unemployed and make more money. When the government offers this, it cuts our hands off to be able to handle these essential projects.

“We’re trying to see if overhead can be cut,” he said. “A lot of people are working, but how to do that at a lesser cost? If we are going to lay them off, do we go part time or PTO; we’re not sure yet. We have until Thursday to make that decision.”

Ricky Cox, Memphis Tile & Marble

Denny said, “The uncertainty of their income and livelihood, as well as the pandemic, has given some of our employees justifiable concerns. We have been forced to sit down as a collective (employees and owners) family and consider our responsibilities to the company, our families, our community, our country, our economy, etc. These challenges have seemed to  knot us tighter together.”

And Ricky Cox of NTCA Five-Star Contractor Memphis Tile & Marble added, “I have been keeping up with this last stimulus package and will be applying for the small business loan.  It will cover payroll, rent, and utilities for 8 weeks and won’t have to be repaid.”

Lack of PPE

Early on, masks were one of the elements of personal protective equipment (PPE) in huge demand by the public at large as well as for health care workers who are face-to-face with Coronavirus on a daily basis. This has left the construction industry wanting for dust masks, and respirators that protect against respirable silica. Welch said he hasn’t been able to procure masks for months, though gloves are plentiful.  Mourelatos said that in addition to limited PPE, cleaning supplies are scarce. Cox, at Memphis Tile & Marble, said. “Masks are VERY hard to come by,” he added. “We were low on stock when all this started and had to order online.  Shipment of masks was two weeks out.”

Technology  helps keep business alive

One of the unintended positive consequences of COVID-19 upsetting the apple cart is the blossoming of the use of technology like Facetime, Zoom and more that will surely open up additional opportunities once the crisis has abated. Vallefuoco said, “I’ve been doing tile design and selection meetings with clients and vendors using Zoom platform. Our vendors have been offering great virtual showroom services.” Welch Tile is using the BombBomb video software to create videos and talk directly to staff “with words of affirmation that we are all in this together.”

Helpful resources

In addition to the news and CDC recommendations, contractors are turning to a range of resources to keep abreast of changes in legislation that may affect their businesses and workers, and their health. Welch taps into the .gov websites, and is grateful for webinars on insurance developments his attorney offers. Mourelatos mentioned a COVID-19 Facebook group that LATICRETE’s vice president of sales and marketing Ron Nash established, as well as the NTCA website (www.tile-assn.com) that “has a wealth of resources and links that have been helpful.”

Using your time

For some, since work is not bustling, there is opportunity to channel downtime into useful activities.

Vallefuoco is working from home, and has used the time to get “back on track with things formerly put on the back burner. I’ve been writing our INTENTIONAL SPACES blog , and addressing life during the COVID-19 era as part of it.”

At Welch Tile, work is afoot on a new logo and sales and marketing projects, as well as refining company purpose and values statements.

Finally, some contractors are evaluating priorities and making time to spend with the special people in their lives.  “We, and our team, are spending much more time home with our families,” Vallefuoco said. “This has truly been an unforeseen gift. We are all concerned for our health and our livelihoods, but we continue to look forward and find the positive.”

Senate passes relief bill for workers, small business, healthcare system to fight COVID-19 Public Health Crisis

The Senate last night unanimously passed a bipartisan $2 trillion bill to immediately bolster the U.S. health care response and economy, with special provisions for workers and small businesses, a Marshall Plan for hospitals, as well as oversight for the $500 billion provision to assist corporations.

The bill also includes student loan relief and $400 million in election assistance for the states to help prepare for the 2020 election cycle, including to increase the ability to vote by mail, expand early voting and online registration, and increase the safety of voting in-person by providing additional voting facilities and more poll- workers. 

A breakdown of the provisions of the bill, obtained from the office of U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich of New Mexico, includes:

Unemployment Insurance: ($260 billion) 

The bill includes a massive investment in the Unemployment Insurance (UI) program as well as critical reforms to make the program more effective for workers. The legislation boosts the UI program in all states and creates a new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program. This new program also expands UI eligibility to part-time, self-employed, and gig economy workers.

Full Paycheck Replacement: $600 increase for every American, which equates to 100% of wages for the average American without a paycheck struggling through the crisis for up to four months. This is in addition to ordinary unemployment benefits a person can receive.

Waiving Waiting Weeks: Gets money in people’s pockets sooner by providing federal incentives for states to eliminate waiting weeks. 

Extension of Benefits: An additional 13 weeks of federally-funded unemployment insurance benefits are immediately be made available. 

Expanding Access: Allow part-time, self-employed, and gig economy workers to access UI benefits. 

Marshall Plan for Our Health System ($150 billion) 

This unprecedented and historic investment for our health care system in its fight against the COVID-19 pandemic creates a new $150 billion fund that is widely available to all types of hospitals and providers most affected by COVID-19. It will be available to fund whatever is needed to defeat this virus. This includes: 

Equipment and Infrastructure: Personal and protective equipment for health care workers, testing supplies, increased workforce and training, new construction to house patients, emergency operation centers and more. 

Enhanced Health Investments: Additional funding is also dedicated to delivering Medicare payment increases to all hospitals and providers to ensure that they receive the funding they need during this crisis, and new investments in our country’s Strategic National Stockpile, surge capacity and medical research into COVID-19. 

Robust Worker and Transparency Protections on Government Loans 

Tough new requirements have been added to government loans lent to companies. 

• No stock buybacks or dividends for the length of any loan provided by the Treasury plus 1 year. 

• Restrictions on any increases to executive compensation. 

• Protection for collective bargaining agreements. 

• Real-time public reporting of Treasury transactions under the Act, including terms of loans, investments or other assistance to corporations. 

•Prohibition on businesses controlled by the President, Vice President, Members of Congress, and heads of Executive Departments getting loans or investments from Treasury programs. 

• Creation of Treasury Department Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery to provide oversight of Treasury loans and investments and a Pandemic Response Accountability Committee to protect taxpayer dollars. 

• Creation of a Congressional Oversight Commission to enhance legislative oversight of pandemic response. 

Small Business Rescue Plan ($377 billion) 

• $350 billion in loan forgiveness grants to small businesses and non-profits to maintain existing workforce and help pay for other expenses like rent, mortgage, and utilities. 

• $10 billion for SBA emergency grants of up to $10,000 to provide immediate relief for small business operating costs. 

• $17 billion for SBA to cover 6 months of payments for small businesses with existing SBA loans. 

Protection for over 2 Million Aviation Industry Jobs 

• Direct payroll payments will keep millions of airline workers on the job and receiving paychecks. 

• Airline companies will be prohibited from stock buybacks and dividends for the entire life of the grant plus one year. 

• Collective bargaining agreements negotiated by workers will be protected. 

Increased Direct Payments to Working Americans 

• Cash payments to the working class Americans were doubled from $600 to $1,200 

• An additional $500 cash payment is available per child. 

• The full payment is available for individuals making up to $75,000 (individual) and $150,000 (married, filing jointly). 

• The value begins decreasing and then phases out completely for those making over the full payment income cap ($99,000 individual/$198,000 married). 

State and Local Coronavirus Expenditures Fund ($150 billion) 

To assist States, Tribes, and local governments that must pay for new expenses related to COVID-19 response. 

• $150 billion, with a small-state minimum of $1.25 billion 

• Tribal set-aside of $8 billion 

Emergency Appropriations ($330 billion, including $100 billion for hospitals and providers mentioned above) 

• $16 billion to replenish the Strategic National Stockpile supplies of pharmaceuticals, personal protective equipment, and other medical supplies, which are distributed to State and local health agencies, hospitals and other healthcare entities facing shortages during emergencies. 

• $1 billion for the Defense Production Act to bolster domestic supply chains, enabling industry to quickly ramp up production of personal protective equipment, ventilators, and other urgently needed medical supplies, and billions dollars more for federal, state, and local health agencies to purchase such equipment. 

• $4.3 billion to support federal, state, and local public health agencies to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the coronavirus, including:  for the purchase of personal protective equipment; laboratory testing to detect positive cases; infection control and mitigation at the local level to prevent the spread of the virus; and other public health preparedness and response activities. 

• $45 billion for FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund, more than doubling the available funding, to provide for the immediate needs of state, local, tribal, and territorial governments, as well as private non-profits performing critical and essential services, to protect citizens and help them recover from the overwhelming effects of COVID-19. Reimbursable activities may include medical response, personal protective equipment, National Guard deployment, coordination of logistics, safety measures, and community services nationwide. 

• $30.75 billion for grants to provide emergency support to local school systems and higher education institutions to continue to provide educational services to their students and support the on-going functionality of school districts and institutions. 

• $25 billion in aid to our nation’s transit systems to help protect public health and safety while ensuring access to jobs, medical treatment, food, and other essential services. 

• $10 billion in grants to help our nation’s airports as the aviation sector grapples with the most steep and potentially sustained decline in air travel in history. 

• $3.5 billion in additional funding for the Child Care Development Block Grant to provide child care assistance to health care sector employees, emergency responders, sanitation workers, and other workers deemed essential during the response to the coronavirus. 

• More than $7 billion for affordable housing and homelessness assistance programs. This funding will help low-income and working class Americans avoid evictions and minimize any impacts caused by loss of employment, and child care, or other unforeseen circumstances related to COVID-19, and support additional assistance to prevent eviction and for people experiencing homelessness 

• More than $6.5 billion in Federal funding for CDBG, the Economic Development Administration, and the Manufacturing Extension Partnership to help mitigate the local economic crisis and rebuild impacted industries such as tourism or manufacturing supply chains. 

• $400 million in election assistance for the states to help prepare for the 2020 election cycle, including to increase the ability to vote by mail, expand early voting and online registration, and increase the safety of voting in-person by providing additional voting facilities and more poll- workers. 

• $2 billion in funding to strengthen response capacity and support tribal governments: 

o $1.03 billion to the Indian Health Service to support tribal health care system response efforts;

o $100 million more for the USDA Food Distribution Program for Indian Reservations;

o $453 million to assist tribes through the Bureau of Indian Affairs;

o $69 million to help tribal schools, colleges and universities through for the Bureau of Indian Education; and

o $300 million more to the HUD Indian Tribal Block Grant program. 

• $1 billion to recapitalize Amtrak after steep ridership declines related to the outbreak. This will keep thousands of Amtrak employees employed, and ensure America’s intercity passenger rail stays on track, continuing service in the Northeast and nationwide. 

Student Loan Relief 

• To alleviate the pressure of student loan costs during this crisis, the bill includes tax relief encouraging employers to implement student loan repayment programs. This provision will exclude up to $5,250 in qualifying student loan repayments paid by the employer on behalf of the employee from income for income tax purposes. 

Word is expected on how soon these funds will be available to workers and businesses and where they can turn to access them. Sen. Heinrich’s office noted that contractors affected by business closures or loss of work will likely need to seek aid on a state-by-state basis. In New Mexico, for instance, out of work contractors would need to contact the N.M Department of Workforce Solutions to file for unemployment.

That said, the eligibility/infrastructure for these guidelines won’t be finalized until the House passage and signature from the president. At that point the administration will be tasked with developing guidelines and regulations to administer the program.

White House and Congress reach agreement on $2 trillion Coronavirus relief package

An agreement was reached early Wednesday morning by White House and Senate leaders on a $2 trillion stimulus package to provide relief to a flagging economy impacted by the Coronavirus. The  Speaker of the House issued a statement with the following particulars of the deal:

  • A large investment in hospitals, health system and state and local governments to give them the resources they desperately need during this emergency.
  • A massive increase in Unemployment Insurance benefits to match the average paycheck of laid-off or furloughed workers.
  • Expansion of fast relief for small businesses, while rent, mortgage and utility costs were made eligible for SBA loan forgiveness. 
  • Billions in emergency education funding, while income tax on student loan repayment assistance by an employer was eliminated.
  • Prevention of secret bailouts and the addition of special oversight requirements.

News outlets report that although full details of the agreement have yet to be hammered out, some specifics have emerged such as

  • $250 billion for direct payments to individuals and families,
  • $350 billion for small business assistance
  • $250 billion in unemployment insurance including extending benefits to those who traditionally were not covered such as gig workers, furloughed workers and freelancers, and bolstering benefits by increases payouts for four months
  • $500 billion in loans for distressed companies, subject to decisions by an oversight board.
  • Individuals  who earn $75,000 in adjusted gross income or less would receive direct payments of $1,200 each, with married couples earning up to $150,000 getting $2,400, and an additional $500 per child. Payments will decrease for individuals making over $75,000, and an income cap was instituted at $99,000 per individual and $198,000 for couples.
  • $130 billion for struggling hospitals
  • $150 billion for state and local governments under pressure from fighting coronavirus

On two key points of particular importance to tile and stone contractors, Senator Chuck Schumer is assuring American workers that help is imminent. In terms of small businesses, he said in floor remarks today, “They will be getting loans. Their employees will be paid by the federal government while they’re closed because they don’t have customers or services.”

For unemployed workers, he calls this agreement, “unemployment compensation on steroids. Every American worker who is laid off will have their salary remunerated by the federal government so they can pay their bills. And because so many of them will be furloughed rather than fired, if they have benefits, they can continue, and—extremely important—they can stay with the company or small business. And that means that company or small business can reassemble once this awful plague is over and our economy can get going quickly.”

Passion for excellence, knack for creativity drive Utah tile setter

Tarkus Tile brings award-winning true craftsmanship to Salt Lake City area

Mark Christensen, owner/craftsman of Tarkus Tile in Lehi, Utah

You never know where your path will lead. Such was the case for Mark Christensen, owner of Tarkus Tile, whose passion for tile work was ignited on a road trip from Utah to Arizona. In 1998, as a 21-year-old college student with dreams of visiting Mexico and beyond – but little cash in his pocket – he worked a few days with a tile setter friend to make a few bucks. 

“I was immediately intrigued with the work, and ended up staying for six months,” Christensen said. His boss “threw him into the fire immediately,” setting tile straightaway, and Christensen loved it. When his boss decided to relocate, he passed on his Target tile saw to Christensen. 

It makes sense that this exposure to tile could ignite Christensen’s passion. “From the time I could walk, I was working alongside my dad, installing carpet in his business and building stuff around the house,” he said.  “I was very fortunate to learn construction skills and common sense from him, which helped me so much.”

Once he returned to Utah to complete college, he did jobs for friends and family. Happy with the level of income tile work afforded him, at 22, he started Tarkus Tile in Lehi City, Utah, near Salt Lake City, and got his contractor license a year later. 

“The first years were hard,” he said. “I was self taught for the most part, having to figure a lot of things out on my own, making a lot of mistakes, but I stuck with it, learning and growing with every job. Twenty years later, I have managed to build a decent reputation and client base in my area. I work mainly solo with the assistance of my three teenage sons on occasion.” Tarkus specializes in mainly high-end residential work, both new construction and remodeling, with an emphasis on luxury bathrooms.

Christensen discovered the John Bridge Forum online in 2008 and eventually the NTCA. 

When his sons were little, Christensen read to them from the TCNA Handbook. From the look of it, it paid off!

“I remember being literally sick to my stomach when I saw the caliber of work that was being done out there,” he admitted. “I thought I was good. Turns out I had so much to learn. And I was intrigued that there were actual standards for our trade, and guidebooks to follow to do things the right way. I was so excited to have found a group of like-minded people, passionate about the tile craft and committed to doing things the right way and to a higher standard.”

Around 2010, he joined NTCA, reading the TCNA Handbook from cover to cover within the first few weeks. “I would even read it aloud to my young sons to put them to sleep at night,” he said. “I love that there is a wealth of knowledge at my fingertips and an answer to any problem I may have on the technical spectrum. And if there isn’t a specific solution in the Handbook, there’s another member who has experienced it and will share their knowledge.”

He credits his membership with getting in the door on some projects, and having the confidence to approach clients and projects with standards-based knowledge and techniques. “This newfound confidence helped me take my work and business to the next level, always progressing,” he said.

Christensen considers this juncture a huge turning point in his career. “The bar was raised and I grew immensely over the following years, pushing my limits and taking on more challenging projects, trying my best to do things the right way,” he said, even serving as the NTCA Utah State Ambassador for a time. 

“In 2014 I had the honor of receiving a Coverings Installation & Design award,” Christensen said. “This was such an awesome and a surreal experience to have my work recognized and celebrated on that level. What an honor. This was definitely the pinnacle of my career up until that point.”

This Residential Stone Installation Award was presented at the 2014 CID Awards. It took Christensen more than 350 hours working solo on this master bath, reframing the steam shower and removing and re-engineering the subfloor and joists. He created a 5’ wide sloped-back bench, and arranged for two-pound spray foam insulation  throughout the shower. He installed a linear drain, two niches, and electric underfloor cable heating. 

It shouldn’t be a surprise that Christensen should be an award-winner: his company is dedicated to breathtaking custom installs that are technically challenging. In fact, early on, he upped the ante on his expertise by immersing himself in the craft of setting with mud, inspired by the John Bridge Forum and some online tile friends.

On his CID-award winning project, Christensen assisted with the selection of Calacatta Gold honed marble and Honed Piana Limestone. He developed the design by sorting stone piece by piece to get a pleasing layout that featured book-matched pieces, and he hand-cut and installed the herringbone accent band. He wrapped all corners with the same piece of marble to create a continuous flow of veining throughout. Then it was time to tackle the bathroom floor.

In 2010, the John Bridge Forum held a two-day mud event in Dallas. “I went and soaked it all in from some good teachers like Dave Gobis, Gerald Sloan, John Cox and John Bridge,” he said. “When I got back home I made a commitment to myself to learn it and go all in. For the next six years, I floated every chance I got. I was doing a lot of work for an up-and-coming custom home builder, back-to-back high-end homes with four to eight bathrooms each. I floated them all, learning and getting better with each one. It was an extremely challenging and humbling experience full of long days and learning the hard way, but to this day I still believe it to be the single best thing I ever did for myself as a craftsman.  It sharpened my skills across the board and gave me a new excitement about the craft. And while I don’t always use mud, it helped me to approach everything with a new perspective of flat, plumb and square, and built to last.”

This emphasis on custom craftsmanship sets his creativity and enthusiasm on fire, bringing versatility and custom attention to every job. “I feel like this has gotten me in the door on some very unique projects, and left a trail of happy clients. I treat every job as if it’s the most important one I’ve ever done.”

The bathroom floor was out of square, so care and precision were used to position an inset limestone border to lay out exactly 4 inches from the cabinet toe kicks. Christensen worked with the cabinet maker to get dimensions and adjusted accordingly for a perfect fit.

The act of creating energizes Christensen and is the joyful core of his work as a tile contractor. And his attitude towards his craft is positively inspiring.

“It’s my outlet, my place of solace,” he said. “I pour every bit of my heart and soul into my work. I see so much beautiful craft and art every day from around the globe, and I know that it all comes from a passion deep inside its creator. It’s so much more than just a job; it’s part of us. Our work is an extension of our very being, and we want nothing more than for it to be enjoyed. This is the highest compliment, to have someone smile and feel emotion when they see my creation.”

Be prepared for a burst of color to inspire and uplift you with TRENDS 2020

Fashion is what you’re offered four times a year by designers.  And style is what you choose.”  — Lauren Hutton

In a few days I will fly out to Las Vegas for TISE, but I’ve just finished compiling content for the TRENDS issue that encapsulates what you’ll see at the Coverings show. And wow, you are in for a treat. Be prepared for a burst of color to inspire and uplift you. Yes, color is becoming more of a “thing” in tile again – along with the beautiful, classic creaminess of natural Cararra and Calacatta marble and the multitude of porcelain marble mimicry you will find as you go into 2020. And color is also celebrated in our A&D story about Allison Eden, owner of Allison Eden studios, a high-end glass mosaic designer in Brooklyn, N.Y. Her story – and her whole being – exudes energy and enthusiasm and her tile designs reflect that as well. 

Joe Lundgren brings a broad overview of what’s shaking in tile style, as well as an exploration of the arc in the life of a trend and how that affects what’s available. In our Sales Pulse story, select distributors give you insight into what’s happening in their regions across the country. And Donato Pompo of CTaSC talks about the timelessness that natural stone brings to the table.

Amidst the fashions from Italy and Spain in this issue, Industry Ambassador Alena Capra’s mini trend report in her welcome letter, and two product sections packed with the newest tile and stone trends on the market, we took some time to visit with NTCA contractors to determine what essential tools help them create flawless installations that stand the test of time. 

And what home trends are impacting the use of ceramic and porcelain tile? Check out details from the Houzz 2020 Kitchen Study for some insight into tile applications in the coming year. 

All in all, we have some exciting things percolating in the world of tile and stone in 2020. We hope this TRENDS issue whets your appetite for sampling tasty new tile treats and savory stone offerings amidst the culinary wonder that is New Orleans, home of Coverings 2020. See you at the show!

God bless,
[email protected]

Mosaic artist Allison Eden builds a fashion empire from a chance encounter with colored glass

Eden says her work is all about color. “People want different!” she said.

 Life is really, really hard. You need to find a positive outlet.

– Allison Eden

There is an ebullient, vibrant force afoot in the world of glass mosaics. To say she is creative would be an understatement. It might be more accurate to say she is the Lady Gaga of the tile world, bringing to bear a plucky, energetic mix of inventiveness, innovation, cheerfulness, enthusiasm, openness, tenacity, excellence – and fun – to the art and craft of glass mosaics. 

Eden got started in glass mosaic making when she was captivated by colorful sheet glass in a Greenwich Village store window. 

To talk with Allison Eden is to get swept up in how much she is in love with what she does – creating custom designs for a wide range of applications, from residences to retail, hotels to hospitals, to community centers to restaurants and everything in between. Her custom designs have been featured in Architectural Digest, Interior Design Magazine, Architectural Record, Metropolitan Home, New York Cottages and Gardens, and Elle Décor and grace the homes of such celebrities as Elton John and Kris Kardashian. Her passion is palpable, and by the time you’re done conversing with her, you are sold on how her colorful designs help make the world a better place. 

Case in point: Eden was commissioned to bring a pop of color to a hospital in Barrow, Alaska, to fight the high suicide rate. Barrow – the subject of the 2012 movie “Big Miracle” – is the northernmost city in the United States, and has 67 days of darkness in the winter. After the hospital, her work enlivened a hotel, community center and school. Her dedication to her work is such that she wound up flying for 72 hours on five flights to lend some direction to the initial hospital installation after the tile contractor was mauled by a polar bear. 

Captivated by color

All of Eden’s designs are hand-cut, using nippers and pencil cutters: no waterjet or power tools.

Eden got her start at the Fashion Institute of Technology in the 1990s, graduated with a BFA and went to work designing a women’s line for Nautica in New York City. Captivated by some colorful sheet glass displayed in the window of a store in Greenwich Village one day, she bought some, took it home and experimented with it on a wall. Then she broke it with a hammer, glued it with Elmer’s to a piece of cardboard, and brought it to the tile store that was just opening up across the street from her apartment. They loved it.

She opened up a studio, and started growing a business, putting ads in the Yellow Pages in every single category into which she thought she might fit: architect, interior designer, fashion, designer, contractor. It worked: she got a call in 1995 to tile a Burger King floor in three weeks. 

“No problem!” she said. “You’ve come to the right place.” She bought a video on how to tile a floor, then showed up in the middle of winter at the job site to create a Brazilian Wave mosaic on the floor, in 20-degree weather, while it was raining and snowing inside. She hired installation help, got it done on time, and invoiced her client with a form she bought at Staples. 

She continued pounding the pavement, carrying Polaroid photos of her “fabulous new product” to companies in the Garment Center she knew, asking if anyone was looking to renovate or redecorate.

“I got one job after another,” she said. “I learned a lot on every project.” Eventually she moved to a studio across from Macy’s until the rent skyrocketed from $6,000/month to $30,000/month. Eden and her husband, who manages her studio, were able to get help from the city as artists and manufacturers who were keeping jobs in New York, and moved their operation to Brooklyn, employing 14 people to cut and assemble the pieces. 

Speaking of which, all of Eden’s designs are hand-cut, using nippers and pencil cutters: no waterjet or power tools. She crafts painterly details of shadows and highlights, all hand-cut and then assembled with plastic front mounting. “I need to see everything!” she said. “You peel the plastic off like tape. It lets you be sure the joints match up perfectly.”

Shoes at Bloomies

Bloomingdale’s department store sought Eden out to create permanent glass mosaic sculptures for the store: a perfume bottle that towers nine to ten feet tall in the entryway and a “monster shoe” for the shoe department. “My shoe gets more hits on Instagram than anything else in the store,” she said. While she was there, she was approached by LebaTex to develop a line of Pop Art fabrics based on her tile designs. 

Eden’s permanent sculptural mosaics at Bloomingdale’s Manhattan flagship store.

She asked the Bloomie’s CEO to take a meeting to discuss her textile ideas. “I went in with the fabric pillows and clothing and decorated the entire room with how I wanted the Allison Eden Department to look,” she explained. “We had a huge pop-up event and sold out of everything. Then they asked me to make a shoe and handbag to match the mosaic shoe. If you don’t ask, you don’t receive. Maybe someone will believe and see your vision!” Bloomies has continued to support Eden, featuring her designs in their famed windows. “Mosaics speak for themselves,” she said. “They are bright, happy and different. I love being in the tile business!”

Inspiration is everywhere

Eden’s tile and interior designs have inspired a line of fabrics by LebaTex. 

How does Eden come up with her designs? Partly she is influenced by her interior designer mom, the glitter and glamour of the 70s and 80s and all the over-the-top styles of that age. “It’s shaped how I design – big, bold,” she said.

Other inspirations come from her travels or simply from walking about the “very vital city” that New York is. “You find the beauty of other places and the beauty of your home,” she said, recording her inspirations in a book she carries with her everywhere. She also grooves on fashion and textiles, spending time in fabric stores and attending shows during fashion week. 

Her very first collection was filled with things she loves: lips, palm trees, unicorns, rainbows and lip gloss. “My husband Gary said, ‘Why can’t you make anything saleable?’” she said. “I will sell more of this than anything. Your home needs to be positive. People want to live in a place that is happy.”

Eden says her work is all about color, talking about the popularity of the Moroccan tile and all the color it embodies. “People want different!” she said. “People may tell me that’s not true, but we have never been busier with custom projects.”

The trend to social media is a key driver for her business too. “People want a feature wall so they can take pictures in their home with their fabulous lifestyles and their fabulous walls,” she said. “And restaurants are doing that now – creating something unique and wild so their clients can be wowed. It sets them apart from others.”

Eden’s first tile collection was filled with things she loves, including unicorns and rainbows. “People want to live in a place that’s happy,” she said. 

Quality products, quality installation

Eden is keen on U.S. – made materials for her designs, often from family-run glassmaking businesses. “I collect a lot of old glass and use that in my designs,” she said. “When a factory closes, I try to buy all the glass.” She lamented about the cheapening of products and the growing propensity to buy cheap, low-quality products, often shipped from China.

“If we could be like we used to, we could be an industry that is self-sufficient,” she said. “I keep a really high-end business. I take such pride in every single piece I make; it has to be perfect.” 

Although she observed that the Art Tile Village at Coverings has gotten smaller over the years, she makes it a point to be there to see her clients and stores (she’s represented in over 400 outlets around the world), and you can find her in New Orleans this year at booth 4107. “We get wonderful support from our tile stores,” she said. 

Though Eden once did her own installation, she lets the pros handle that now. “You need a good installer to do tile,” she said. “[NTCA member] Rod Katwyk did one of my installations years ago and visits me at Coverings. And LATICRETE has been very good to us.” 

Elizabeth Lambert of Lambert Tile & Stone, an NTCA Five-Star Contractor in Colorado, installed Eden’s mosaics years ago, and found them very easy to work with. “We follow the instructions,” she said. “You give her the exact dimensions of the space and she numbers all the pieces so they interlock the way she designed it. She sends a bunch of extra pieces, and whenever we call she is on the phone in seconds. She is very accessible. And she understands the need for qualified labor to install. The last thing she wants is a failure with her name on it.

“She is a total artist,” Lambert continued. “There are not that many vendors in the U.S. that do work like that. It’s unique and delicate. She can create anything – send her images and she’ll find a way to make it happen.”

From pop art to classic figures to celebrities and abstract designs, “She can create anything,” said NTCA Five-Star Contractor Elizabeth Lambert. 

Homing in on Coverings 2020

In this March issue, we start homing in on Coverings. What a dynamic event this is going to be! Back in New Orleans for the first time in nearly 20 years, Coverings promises to bring all its standard business-boosting features, set among outstanding food, culture, and music in a city that continues to rebuild itself after the major destruction of Hurricane Katrina in August 2005. A testament to the city’s ebullient spirit, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival begins April 23 – just as Coverings is coming to a close – so plan to stay for the weekend to enjoy what the city has to offer. For a preview of what Coverings has on tap, read the story in this issue – some favorite features will return with some new events, activities and elements planned. 

Seafood gumbo by Carol Bracey

You read in our February issue about how the NTCA/CTEF partnership is kicking certification into high gear. This month in our Training & Education section, hear from some Industry Evaluators who have gone through the Boot Camp training about their commitment and their outlook for this industry program.

In this month’s One-to-One, Bart Bettiga speaks with two stellar artisans of our industry – Lee Callewaert of Dragonfly Tile & Stone Works and Joshua Nordstrom of Tierra Tile. Gain some insight into their particular approaches to craftsmanship, artistry and the tile industry. 

In our Tile & Stone section, we talk with Becky Serbin about an essential new workshop that NTCA is offering in 2020: The Ins and Outs of Layout. This workshop evolved from observations during the Certified Tile Installer tests – that not all contractors had a working knowledge of accurate layout principles, which created time management issues during the exam. Clearly, this situation would ALSO slow down a day-to-day job, so NTCA decided to address it with the new workshop focus on layout.

Floor warming systems have come a long way since hydronic heating was the only option for creating a cozy floor. And fortunately ceramic and porcelain tiles are excellent finishing materials to use in conjunction with these systems. In our Technical section, read what floor warming manufacturers say contribute to successful electric floor warming system installation. 

Enjoy this issue, the coming of spring – officially arriving on March 19 – and your plans to attend the pre-eminent tile and stone event in North America, complete with Cajun and Creole flair in The Big Easy.

God bless, 

[email protected]

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